On its own, tofu will never rank as the world’s most glamorous food.
It’s not pretty. In fact, it’s pretty bland. And also known as “bean curd,” it doesn’t even sound particularly appetizing.
But tofu’s lack of beauty is only skin deep. Turns out, it’s good for your diet.
“Tofu is fun,” maintains Leah Leneman, in her tofu manual The Tofu Cookbook, Over 150 Quick and Easy Recipes. “It can be used in more interesting and varied ways than any other single food. The cook that is tired of tofu must be tired of life.”
The excitement, Leneman notes, is most definitely in the preparation, not the plain block of tofu one plucks from the grocer’s dairy case.
“Anyone tasting plain tofu for the first time is surprised at how bland it is,” she writes. “But it is this blandness which is one of its greatest assets since it can absorb any kind of flavouring. And, unlike soya (soy) beans themselves, tofu is very easy to digest, and can be eaten even by young children or the elderly with no harmful consequences. It is also low in cost.”
What Is Tofu?
According to Nasoya.com’s “Tofu 101” (an excellent source for your tofu basics), tofu is produced by curdling soy milk (from the soybean) much the way cheese is make from milk. A coagulant is added and the resulting curds are poured into a forming box once the liquids are pressed out. This forms a tofu block, commonly known as bean curd.
What does tofu taste like?
Essentially, it has no taste, making it a favorite protein source in smoothies, stir-fry dishes, and desserts. Nasoya says tofu “acts like a sponge,” absorbing the flavor of other ingredients.
What are the common varieties of tofu?
You can find fresh tofu and processed tofu. Fresh tofu is sold immersed in water to maintain its moisture content. Among the “fresh” varieties, soft (or silken) tofu is undrained. Containing the most moisture, it is a dairy and egg substitute, useful in smoothies and baked desserts. Firm tofu is drained and pressed. Containing significant moisture, its texture resembles a custard and is easy to cube or scramble. Extra-firm is best for stir-fry dishes. Pickled, dried, and fried are among common varieties of processed tofu.
What are some tricks to preparing packaged tofu?
Drain the water then place the tofu between two sheets of paper towel and press it with a book, a frying pan, or cans of food for 10 to 20 minutes. Keep tofu refrigerated and in water until you plan to use it. Store it in fresh water (changed daily) in an air-tight container. Tofu can be frozen for up to three months but is likely to become chewier.
Why eat tofu?
It’s low in fat and calories, contains zero saturated fat, is rich in protein, and contains multiple minerals including calcium, potassium, and magnesium. According to Nasoya, a four-ounce serving of extra-firm tofu contains six grams of fat and zero cholesterol (compared to four ounces of pork which checks in at 24 grams of fat and 100 mg of cholesterol). It’s easy to digest because the soybean’s fiber has been removed.
Will my kids like it?
They’re bound to ask for more if you try some of the snack ideas below:
Forget the tater tots, check out this recipe from Kirbie’s Cravings. They’re oven-baked and require just four ingredients.
This vegan recipe from Chef De Home features a crunchy, multi-vegetable filling. Experiment with the insides once you’ve mastered the tofu shells.
Tofu Chocolate Pudding
Do you have a favorite way to utilize tofu in a snack? Please share with us, and be sure to look for more Snack of the Week suggestions and information on healthy eating at Learning Liftoff’s food pages.
Featured Image – Jenny Hones / CC by 2.0